It was at that point I decided that enough was enough.
They had missed out on one of the biggest opportunities you have as a business!
You see not too long ago I hired a new HR company for one of my accounting firms.
And initially I was optimistic about working with them.
They had some great testimonials on their website, the sales call felt more like a conversation about my needs vs. being overly sold something, and everything I’d seen so far from them made me think that they really had their house in order.
But soon after I signed on the dotted line, the cracks began to show…
I was passed from pillar to post, one minute it was Gemma who was onboarding me, next it with Tim, who apparently didn’t have any of the information I’d already given to Gemma.
I was given conflicting information from different team members and after 2 weeks, I was left completely in the dark about what was happening next.
And as a result, I began to worry I had made a mistake in choosing to work with them.
I mean, if they’re sloppy at the start god knows what they’ll be like 6 months down the line or when it comes to actually dealing with any HR issues that I have?
So, I jumped ship.
Now sure, I’d wasted time and a bit of cash…. but I had also learnt a valuable lesson.
That you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.
You really don’t.
Which is why as an accounting firm it’s crucially important that you focus on ‘wowing’ new clients and building strong relationships with them from the very first day.
This way there’s less chance they’ll get jump ship like I did.
So, when you win a new client for your accounting firm, what does day one entail?
For both my accountancy practices and coaching business day one marks the very start of a carefully planned onboarding process which will:
- Take care of any and all admin in the most time efficient way for all of us
- Fill in any knowledge gaps so that they know exactly what’s expected of them and how things work
- Introduce people and processes to help them feel welcomed and a part of the practice community
- Blow their bloody socks off! So they go away raving about the amazing experience they’ve had.
Can you confidently say your firm’s onboarding process does all those things?
If you can, you’re cooking with gas.
If you can’t, then you should check out these 5 ways to deliver an exceptional onboarding experience….
1. Do Your Planning
To make sure your client onboarding process ticks all the boxes, you have to do your planning.
Because inconsistency, confusion or apprehension are 3 things that have the potential to kill your relationship before it has the chance to begin.
So, what needs to happen?
Sit down, (with your team members if you like) and make a note of everything that needs to happen to get a client ready to work with you.
This list should include a mixture of both transactional and relational tasks such as:
- Contracts and Direct Debits (transactional)
- Team Introductions & welcomes (relational)
- Document exchanges (transactional)
- Software training (both)
- Follow up call (relational)
- Scope meeting (transactional)
And once you have a clear idea of what needs to happen, you can then create a timeline of when.
One thing me and my team use is a 90-day onboarding timeline.
It doesn’t need to be fancy and it can be done using a simple excel spreadsheet. Or it can make a nice exercise if you use sticky notes and plot a timeline along a wall in your office.
But when finished, you should have a clear client onboarding journey map of every interaction and task for the first 3 months your client is with you.
And every base should be covered.
2. Use technology to automate & systemise
Once you’ve mapped out and planned the onboarding process, it’s time to systemise it.
Automating and systemising any process ensures consistency, saves time, makes it scalable and reduces the potential for human error.
And for the early stages of your client relationships, this is crucial.
Now there are numerous types of software and technology available to help systemise your onboarding process.
Here are some types you should consider for your accounting firm:
Proposal Software such as Practice Ignition and GoProposal. These can be used to automate engagement letters, generating invoices, and collecting payments.
Workflow Software: such as Senta Glide, Karbon, Accountancy Manager which will help with both transactional and relational tasks such as email sending, SMS messages and creating tasks for your team.
Project/Task Management Software: such as asana or Monday.com. If set up alongside Zapier or other automation technology they can create and assign an extensive checklist of tasks for team members to complete. All it takes is a simple tag in your crm or workflow system to kickstart the project and no tasks will be forgotten and you can easily check progress.
3. Have a dedicated onboarding champion
Every great project and process should have a leader or champion to oversee it.
And while every client facing team member should be aware and involved in the onboarding process to a certain extent, it is crucial that you have someone responsible for managing it.
This person can take the role as a ‘Client Care Manager’ and will take an active role in ensuring the client is happy and whatever needs to happen, happens.
They can do this by:
- Giving the new client an introductory phone call or visit to welcome them
- Having an onboarding meeting/video call with the new client to help them get up to speed with the processes and software
- Be available for questions or concerns
- Oversee the onboarding tasks and ensure each step of the plan is executed
If you’ve put systems in place, the dedicated onboarding champions role will be easier. And they’ll become a first port of call for the new client should any problems arise.
4. Provide the ‘wow’ factor
This is key.
The onboarding process needs to blow the new client away, reassure them that they made the right decision and set a tone for awesome things to come.
So, you need to take every opportunity to make it a personalised experience and go above and beyond their expectations.
Whether it be sending welcome videos from the team, having a clearly laid out infographic explaining your 90 day onboarding timeline, or simply picking up the phone to check in… this is your time to shine.
The early stages in your relationship with clients are your moment to really show them that you do things differently to other practices and so focusing on providing the very best service delivery will really set you apart.
It’s often the little things that count, so i’m not saying you need to buy diamonds and a meal at the Ritz… rather drive home the fact that your there to help, and you can be counted on to deliver to a consistently high standard.
If you do, they’ll have complete trust in your services and feel like a valued member of your community.
5. Follow up
When the honeymoon phase is over, don’t undo all your hard work and planning.
Because there’s nothing worse than pulling out all the stops to impress at the start, only to let standards slip and leave the client wondering what happened further down the line.
So, once the client is settled and fully up-and-running, make sure you have a plan in place to regularly touch base and make sure they’re satisfied with the service they’re receiving.
You can do this by ensuring your awesome onboarding process is part of a much bigger client experience strategy.
(For ways you can deliver an awesome client experience throughout the client lifetime, read this article here. )
Consider your client relationships like a long and happy marriage.
A little effort goes a long way and your client should be considered in every decision you make for your practice.
Your onboarding process should be amazing honeymoon stage. A great phase that will lead to deeper bonds and a long-term lasting impression.